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From the much acclaimed author of Dared and Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, a new book that retrieves the lives of Victorian women--writers, actresses, poets, journalists, sculptors, and social reformers--celebrated in their day but forgotten in ours. Julia Markus focuses in particular on the American Charlotte Cushman, the most famous English-speaking actress of her day, and on the Scottish Jane Welsh Carlyle, a brilliant London hostess who gave up private ambition to become the wife of her friend Thomas Carlyle.Charlotte Cushman became an international star on the New York and London stage, and her Romeo and Hamlet were sensations. An independent woman with shrewd business sense who made her own fortune and supported her entire family, she dressed like a man from the waist up and had a succession of female lovers, each one of whom she planned to live with for life, each of whom she 'married.'Jane Welsh Carlyle, literary hostess, unparalleled letter writer and chronicler of her times--who, after a passionate youthful love affair, resolved to marry genius or not at all--became the wife of the revered and lionized philosopher Thomas Carlyle, a difficult, demanding man with whom she had a sexless marriage.Interweaving the worlds of Charlotte Cushman and Jane Carlyle--the worlds of expatriate Rome, literary London, New York, and St. Louis--Markus gathers together a number of interrelated and renowned women who were relegated in the public eye to the position of Virgin Queen (no matter how much married) or Old Maid, but who were, in fact, privately leading vibrant, independent, sexual lives. Among them: Matilda Hays, translator of George Sand; Harriet Hosmer, who resolved to become the world's first professional woman sculptor; and Emma Stebbins, whom Cushman 'married' and who created the Bethesda Fountain in New York's Central Park. Here, too, are the people who sought the friendship of Cushman and Carlyle, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Mann, Elizabeth Peabody, President Lincoln's Secretary of State William H. Seward, Geraldine Jewsbury, and Rosa Bonheur.Making use of letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and journals of the day, many of them overlooked and unpublished, Julia Markus rediscovers lives forgotten in the shadows of convention and shows how these remarkable women--seemingly separated by nationality, class, and sexual inclination--met, formed alliances, and influenced one another, forging changes in themselves and in their time.
A Riveting and brilliant work of biography. The story of two great English poets, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, whose work was immediately recognized and adored by their contemporaries, whose courtship ranks with the great love stories of all time -- and in whose marriage romance was not merely sustained but intensified.We enter their story through the sealed Victorian world of the Barretts of Wimpole Street: Elizabeth, at thirty-nine, a poet of international fame, a child prodigy who had grown to be a middle-aged spinster, a woman for whom romantic love seemed not to be possible, confined by illness, morphine, and the tyranny of her father, scion of rich Jamaican slaveholders, rum and sugar traders.It is to this fortress that Robert Browning, already an admired young poet and playwright, already a devotee of Elizabeth's, lays siege. ("I love your verses," he had written Elizabeth in his first letter to her, long before they met. "I love your verses with all my heart -- and I love you too.") And miraculously Elizabeth let life in.Julia Markus chronicles their extraordinary courtship, their marriage in secret (Browning to Elizabeth: "How you have dared and done all this ... for my only sake?"), and their radiant honeymoon in Italy.Markus shows us how the political events of the times inspired the great dramatic monologues of Robert's middle years and how Italy's stormy reunification inspired Elizabeth's later work.We come to see Elizabeth as an artist with a fierce and final confidence in poetry and its effect on the poets' lives. We see husband and wife celebrate the birth of their son, Robert Wiedemann "Pen" Barrett Browning (Browning to her sisters: "I sate by [Elizabeth] as much as I was allowed, and I shall never forget what I saw, tho' I cannot speak about it").We see them among their artist/writer friends: in London with Tennyson, Thackeray, Rossetti, and others; in Rome with William Story, the American lawyer, poet, sculptor; with Harriet Hosmer, the stonecutter, who was one of the models for Aurora Leigh; with Charlotte Cushman, the American actress, who held readings of Elizabeth's novel in verse. We see Elizabeth in Paris meeting her heroine George Sand, whose society of socialists and theatrical types Robert described as "ragged Red."We come to understand Elizabeth's dependence on the ever-present drug in her life ("I should not be alive except by help of my morphine") and her constant battle with depression. And we see Elizabeth, encouraged by a woman with whom she was infatuated, move from interest to obsession with spiritualism, a cause that became the only source of serious dissension between the Brownings.We follow the course of their rich marriage, from the beginning when each saw the other as a brilliant poet, a compassionate and strangely similar heart, through the years in which they discovered each other's differences, each remaining a complex and thrilling human being to the other.To tell their story, Markus for the first time makes use of much of Elizabeth's unpublished correspondence, amid a wealth of other documents. She delves fully into the Brownings' Creole background and shows how it affected their lives and their work (Elizabeth was the first of the Jamaican Barretts to be born in England in many generations).Brilliantly interweaving the Brownings' own words with her authentic and perceptive narrative, Julia Markus brings these two great poets -- their marriage, their work, their times -- alive as never before.
Acclaimed biographer Julia Markus has written an unprecedented and illuminating portrait of the brilliant, tortured, and controversial James Anthony Froude -- the quintessential Victorian, father of modern biography, historian, diplomat, and prodigal son. J. Anthony Froude expertly captures the roiling cultural history of a century through one man's dynamic life. From his birth in 1818 to his death in 1894, J. Anthony Froude embodied the issues and complexities of his time. Through the story of his life, Markus elucidates the major ideological issues of the nineteenth century -- sexuality, colonialism, and the widespread challenges to religion's long-held cultural primacy. In beautifully crafted prose, Markus reveals the compelling life of one of the most important thinkers of the Victorian age -- the brutality of his early education, his troubled relationship with his father, his expulsion from Oxford, his dramatic and dazzling literary career, his delicious political incorrectness, his two marriages, his relationships with his children, his friendships with such disparate luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cardinal Newman, his diplomatic work for Prime Minister Disraeli, and his complex relationship with Thomas Carlyle, his spiritual father and the subject of his most famous biography. A. L. Rowse, historian and author, called Froude the "last great Victorian awaiting revival." No life of the period is more poignant, no destiny more fascinating, than that of this man who in his books and his actions reflected the triumphs and the errors of his society.
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